The 10 Best Wireless Routers of 2020

Shop the best routers for gamers, streamers, large houses, apartments and more

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Netgear Orbi at Best Buy
"The Netgear Orbi can cover up to 6,000 square feet and can handle speeds of up to 2.2Gbps."
Best Security:
Asus RT-AX88U at Amazon
"Offers cutting-edge Wi-Fi 6 performance with advanced security features that keep everything in your home protected from internet threats."
"Can cover your whole home and beyond without the need to fiddle with advanced Wi-Fi settings."
Best for Gaming:
Asus GT-AX11000 at Amazon
"An ultra-fast Wi-Fi 6 router with a plethora of advanced features designed specifically with gamers in mind."
"With a futuristic look and 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 support, the RAX80 paves the way for the future."
"An affordable router that is great for handling lots of devices."
Best for Smart Homes:
Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi at Amazon
"SmartThings makes you the master of your domain, with total control over all your devices."
Best for Simplicity:
Google Nest Wi-Fi at Amazon
"If you want a simple, fast setup and a 'set it and forget it' router, this is the one to get."
Best for Media Streaming:
Netgear Nighthawk X10 at Amazon
"Ultrafast WiGig speeds plus a built-in Plex server let you stream your media to a wide variety of devices."
"A great little router for an extremely reasonable price."

With larger and busier homes making more demands on your internet connection these days, it's no longer enough to just pick up any average Wi-Fi router—you need one of the best wireless routers to make sure that you have enough range, power, and performance to handle everything you and your housemates will be doing, regardless of whether it's surfing the web or watching the latest hits on Netflix in full 4K UHD quality.

Finding the best wireless router among all of the options that are available can sometimes seem like an exercise in frustration for the uninitiated, but it's important to remember that regardless of what other bells and whistles it offers, the most important thing for a wireless router to do is to provide the performance you need for your online activities while also making sure it has enough coverage to deliver that performance throughout your entire home.

Of course, if you're living in a smaller home and don't have a large family competing for a piece of your bandwidth, then there are lots of really affordable options available and you don't need to empty your wallet to buy a powerful router that's designed to provide gigabit connections throughout a several thousand square foot abode. On the other hand, if you've got a larger family or set of roommates juggling smartphones, tablets, laptops, and gaming consoles we'd definitely recommend splurging for a higher-end router with the bandwidth you need for multiple devices, preferably with tri-band Wi-Fi or even the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology.

The good news is that there's something here for everyone, so read on to find the best wireless router for your home.

Best Overall: Netgear Orbi Whole Home Wi-Fi System

What We Like
  • Full Home Coverage

  • Speedy performance

  • Beautiful aesthetics

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Older devices can complicate things

While you may not immediately recognize it as a Netgear product, thanks to its more living-room-friendly aesthetic, the Orbi is the venerable networking company's first fully mesh wireless router that can deliver solid and reliable performance for every corner of even the largest homes.

The Orbi features a tri-band Wi-Fi system, and while it only provides dual-band Wi-Fi to your devices—speeds of up to 866Mbps over 5GHz frequencies and 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz side—the third 5GHz band offers a dedicated "backhaul" channel to move traffic between all of the units, which, as our testing found, ensures that you can get maximum Wi-Fi speeds from anywhere in your home.

All told this gives it enough range to easily cover a 5,000 square foot home, and it also has a staggering number of LAN ports for a mesh system—three on the base unit plus four more on the satellites, all supporting Gigabit Ethernet, so you can easily hardwire in a TV or game console for maximum performance.

"Anyone that has a large home or office that needs a fast and reliable network connection will find a lot to love with this router." — Bill Thomas, product tester

Best Security: Asus RT-AX88U AX6000 Dual-Band Wi-Fi 6 Router

What We Like
  • Advanced Wi-Fi 6 support

  • Excellent performance

  • Eight LAN ports

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Asus has a well-deserved reputation for building some of the most secure wireless routers for consumers, and the RT-AX88U continues that strong tradition with a flagship router that offers the latest and greatest Wi-Fi technologies along with solid range and performance and all of Asus’ cutting-edge security features.

Packing in four high-power beamforming antennas along with Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax support, the RT-AX88U can comfortably cover a 5,000 square foot home with 6Gbps of bandwidth for all of your devices, offering great performance for even the most congested home networks. Around back there’s a healthy array of eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, letting you hardwire in any PCs, gaming consoles, or other devices where you need maximum performance or security, and dual USB 3.1 ports offer the ability to share files or media across your network.

Asus’ RT-AX88U also bundles in AiProtection Pro powered by Trend Micro, offering malware protection and an intelligent firewall that will protect everything from your PCs and smartphones to your smart home devices from a variety of internet threats, and there are also advanced parental controls, VPN server and client support, and more.

"I was able to stream high definition Netflix to two televisions on my network while someone else was gaming, and various other phones and tablets were in use without any stuttering or slowdown." Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Mesh: Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System

What We Like
  • Easy to set up

  • Great wired speeds

  • Real-time content filtering & malware protection

What We Don't Like
  • Single Ethernet port

  • Lacks PPPoE support

  • Content filtering requires monthly subscription

If you need a wireless router that can cover your whole home without making you fiddle with a bunch of advanced Wi-Fi settings, then the Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System is the one to beat. The full Eero Pro system comes with a trio of tri-band routers that collectively offer up to 6,000 square feet of mesh network coverage without slowing down your internet speeds, and our testing showed that even somebody with zero networking knowledge can get the whole system up and running in a few minutes, thanks to the really intuitive mobile app. 

Eero Pro is also one of the first Apple HomeKit-enabled wireless routers, which means that users of Apple’s home automation platform can take advantage of an intelligent firewall that automatically secures HomeKit-compatible smart home and IoT devices from internet threats.

The single 2.4GHz and dual 5GHz channels with MU-MIMO support give you enough bandwidth for all of your devices; each station can handle up to 128 wireless clients, while a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports on each station offers wired connectivity for those devices that need the extra speed, although you’ll need to use one of those wired ports for your internet connection on whichever unit you designate as the main router.

Eero Pro is also ridiculously expandable, letting you add as many more satellite units as you need, which can either be additional Eero Pro stations, or the more affordable Eero Beacons which plug discretely into wall outlets to offer 1,500 square feet each of dual-band Wi-Fi coverage, although they lack the wired Ethernet ports.

"The bottom line is that this system offers decent performance while demystifying the process of setting up a mesh Wi-Fi network." — Jeremy Laukkonen, product tester

Best for Gaming: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

What We Like
  • Advanced Wi-Fi 6 Support

  • Extremely Fast Performance

  • Cutting-edge game-centric QoS

What We Don't Like
  • Large footprint

  • Expensive

  • User interface can be a bit daunting

Asus has long been known for its high-performance wireless routers for gamers, and right now its flagship GT-AX11000 is the cream of the crop, with blazing 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 speeds that can reach 10Gbps—provided of course you have the necessary Wi-Fi 6 adapters on your PC or gaming console. Even with older Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac devices, however, the eight-antenna array provides great throughput thanks to the usual beamforming and MU-MIMO technologies.

For gamers who prefer to jack in, not only are there the usual four Gigabit Ethernet ports, but there’s also a special 2.5Gbps dedicated gaming port, so you should have no problem saturating even the fastest fibre connections, and thanks to its 1.8GHz quad-core CPU, it offers the kind of low-latency that serious gamers demand. In addition to all of Asus’ usual great general security and networking features, the GT-AX11000 also includes support for the WTFast Gamers Private Network which automatically keeps you connected to the fastest servers for popular online games, plus VPN Fusion so you can keep your VPN up and running without slowing down your gaming traffic. 

While the GT-AX11000 doesn’t come cheap, it’s well worth the price of entry, since its sheer power and Wi-Fi 6 support makes it a future-proof router for serious gamers that will keep you well ahead of the curve for years to come. 

"The ROG Rapture AX11000 worked almost flawlessly in the five days I spent with it. Even with multiple devices hitting it from every direction for high-bandwidth streams, it never failed to provide what was needed." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Technology: Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 8-Stream AX6000 Wi-Fi 6 Router

What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • Wi-Fi 6 Support

  • 8K streaming

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Design can make for awkward placement

Netgear’s Nighthawk RAX80 is a cutting-edge wireless router that was one of the first out of the gate with support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology, which means it’s had time to both mature and prove itself as a solid 802.11ax router that paves the way for the future of home networking. 

Even the look of the RAX80 is futuristic, with a pair of hawk-like wings that conceal its four high-powered antennas that provide up to 2,500 square feet of reliable coverage thanks to its support for faster and less congested 160MHz frequencies. With 802.11ax devices, you can get get up to 4.8Gbps of throughput on the 5GHz band and 1.2Gbps on the 2.4GHz side, but it’s also backward compatible with Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac and older standards, so there’s no need to rush out and upgrade everything to 802.11ax right away.

That said, if you own one of the latest Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy smartphones, you’ve already got at least one device with Wi-Fi 6 support baked in, meaning you’ll get more reliable performance even with a lot of devices on your network, so you’ll be far less likely to get dropped calls when walking around the house with your smartphone, and the improved efficiency of Wi-Fi 6 also means better battery life for your mobile devices. 

"The Netgear Nighthawk RAX80 is a flashy dual-band router that features good Wi-Fi speeds, future-proof Wi-Fi 6 support, and fantastic file transfer speed between devices on your network." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Value: Linksys EA7500 Max-Stream AC1900 Dual-Band Router

What We Like
  • Simple and intuitive router

  • Excellent for streaming with multiple devices

  • Hits speeds up to 1.9 Gbps

What We Don't Like
  • Speeds can fluctuate wildly

  • Software is not robust

If you have a large home, you might have a lot of people with a lot of different devices: tablets, Alexa speakers, TVs, gaming consoles, phones, and VR rigs all compete for a slice of your internet bandwidth. Thankfully the Linksys EA7500 wireless router lets you connect 12 or more devices at once. It also sports both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, four Gigabit Ethernet ports, speeds of up to 1.9Gbps and an unobtrusive design.

You don’t get much in the way of software, however, and if you stretch the router too thin with way more devices than is normal you’ll get inconsistent downloads, so this is really best for small families with modest needs, and our testing showed that this is a very capable wireless router that will perform just fine for everyday use without breaking the bank.

"It’s high-end enough that the average user won’t run into any noticeable slowdowns, at a price that won’t make your wallet cry." — Bill Thomas, product tester

Best for Smart Homes: Samsung SmartThings Wi-Fi Mesh Router and Smart Home Hub

What We Like
  • Covers up to 1,500 square feet

  • Great app to control all devices

  • Sleek, elegant design

What We Don't Like
  • Not the easiest to install

  • Lackluster tech support

  • Not the fastest (866 Mbps)

If you want to create a Smart Home, you need a smart router, and that means a Wi-Fi mesh router that extends coverage throughout your home to keep all of your devices connected and functioning in harmony. The Samsung SmartThings line of products fits this bill well, with an all-in-one solution that lets you control over 100 devices. As our testing showed, a pack of three wireless routers will let you easily cover up to 4,500 square feet, making sure all of your smart home devices stay reliably connected.

Once you get everything installed, the app allows total control over your smart home, and even includes Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave for managing smart home devices like lights, doorbells, thermostats, and more. Support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant also let you issue voice commands to it and set up automated routines for when you wake up, go to bed, or arrive and leave home.

Samsung has also built some pretty clever cloud-based artificial intelligence into its Wi-Fi hub that lets it continuously monitor your network, learning about what kind of performance each of your devices need and automatically optimizing for the best throughput, and although you can also tweak the settings to give individual devices more priority, chances are that you won't have to.

"The routers are small and easy to hide but still big on performance." — Benjamin Zeman, product tester

Best for Simplicity: Google Nest Wi-Fi (2nd Generation)

What We Like
  • Attractive and simple design

  • Integrates with Google Home

  • Point units double as smart speakers

What We Don't Like
  • No Ethernet ports on points

  • Lacks a dedicated backhaul channel

Google's Nest Wifi is the second-generation of the company's wireless mesh system which uses satellites—or "points"—that communicate with each other to help cover every inch of your home with a reliable and high-performance wireless network. The main Nest Wifi unit plugs into your internet provider's modem in the same way as any other router, and then you simply drop additional units around your home wherever your network needs more reach.

With two points, the Nest Wifi can offer up to 5,400 square feet of coverage, which should be enough to blanket all but the very largest homes, and as an added bonus, each point can double as a Google Assistant smart speaker, making this system a really great choice for those invested in the Google Home ecosystem. Thanks to Google's Home and Wi-Fi apps for Android and iOS, the Nest Wifi is also an absolute cinch to set up and manage, letting you get up and running within minutes with almost no fuss at all, and it even lets you set up a guest network for your friends and other visitors and let them get online simply by scanning a QR code.

"Google Nest Wi-Fi warrants its high price tag with super-smooth wireless performance throughout the home and incredibly easy setup and use." — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for Media Streaming: Netgear Nighthawk X10 AD7200 Smart Wi-Fi Router

What We Like
  • Blazing fast three-band speeds of 7.2 Gbps

  • Versatile and durable

  • Integrated Plex Media Streaming

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Signal can’t penetrate walls well

Netgear’s Nighthawk X10 AD7200 wireless router is powered by a 802.11ac quad stream Wave2 along with a 60GHz 802.11ad Wi-Fi, which gives you up to 7.2Gbps of throughput for 802.11ad-compatible devices. It also includes a 1.7GHz quad-core processor and a built-in Plex media server with two USB 3.0 ports and six Gigabit Ethernet ports, and a 10Gbps SFP+ port that you can use either for connecting a high-speed NAS device or even connecting to a 10-gigabit fiber connection—if you're lucky enough to have an ISP that can provide you with one.

Needless to say, this router can absolutely handle whatever you throw at it: 4K streaming, VR gaming, and instant downloads, all lag free. If you can stomach the entry price, this router will be with you for long haul.

"I plugged in one of my media-filled SSD USB drives and had no trouble streaming to any of the Plex clients I have on my network." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Best Under $50: TP-Link Archer A6/C6 AC1200 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router

What We Like
  • Affordable and reliable router

  • Four Gigabit Ethernet ports

  • Setup is easy and hassle free

What We Don't Like
  • Speed falls off at longer ranges

  • Missing some features like Alexa voice support

  • No USB ports

If you're on a budget, check out TP-Link's Archer A6 wireless router. While it won't handle the needs of a large household or a big family, it's speeds of up to 1.2Gbps are more than enough for most people's casual internet needs, plus there are four Gigabit Ethernet ports for those times when you need to hardwire in.

This is a simple to use, easy to install dual-band wireless router that's tiny and lightweight, and the A6 also has MU-MIMO technology powering it, meaning you can get multiple 5GHz devices online simultaneously without sacrificing speed. This little router won't win any speed records, but it's a cheap and cheerful choice if you need reliable coverage and don't want to spend a lot of money.

"The TP-Link Archer A6 AC1200 is an entry-level gigabit router that gets the job done at an attractive budget price." — Jeremy Laukkonen, Product Tester

Final Verdict

For a system that can expand with you to ultimately cover even the largest homes, Netgear's Orbi is a clear winner, thanks to its mesh Wi-Fi technology and satellite units you can add to drop in wireless coverage where you need it. If you're looking to get the job done without spending too much, however, Linksys' EA7500 delivers great performance for small to medium sizes homes at a price that won't break the bank.

How We Tested

Our expert reviewers and editors evaluate routers based on design, connectivity, performance, and features. We test their wireless performance at varying distances, measure their effective range and bandwidth, and analyze their feature sets, including how well those features are implemented. We also consider each router as a value proposition—whether or not a product justifies its price tag, and how it compares to competitive products. All of the routers we reviewed were purchased by Lifewire; none of the review units were furnished by the manufacturer or retailer.

About Our Trusted Experts

Jesse Hollington has over three decades of experience in information technology and networking, and has installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender, dating back to the days long before Wi-Fi even existed, in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings and university campuses.

Bill Thomas has been covering tech for several years, and has extensive experience with PC hardware, networking gear, and gaming. They've written for a number of major tech publications.

Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.

Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician and writer based in southern Vermont. When he’s not reviewing tech products for Lifewire, he’s getting nerdy fixing them or solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer who has been covering technology and video games since 2006. His areas of expertise include smartphones, wearable gadgets, smart home devices, video games, and esports. 

The Ultimate Wireless Router Buying Guide

Your home network enables devices like computers and printers to communicate inside your house, and it also allows your computers, phones, game consoles, and other devices to connect to the internet. While the modem is the component that actually connects to the internet, the wireless router is actually the linchpin of the entire system that connects everything together.

Choosing the right wireless router can mean the difference between lightning fast download speeds and frustratingly slow data transfer, a rock-solid network or constantly dropped connections, and even basic compatibility with your latest devices.

Wireless router technology might seem dry and complicated, or even difficult to understand, but you can make an informed decision if you’re able to wrap your head around a few key concepts. For example, you need to select a wireless router that supports the standards required by your wireless devices, and it’s important to understand the difference between the two main wireless router frequencies.

Other features, like range, speed, and ports all impact the usability of a router and can have a huge effect on your overall experience and satisfaction. Select a router that doesn’t have enough bands to support all of the users and devices in your house, for example, and you’ll set yourself up for a disappointing experience.

Wireless Router Standards: Compatibility is Key

The wireless standards supported by a router determine which devices are able to connect to that router. These standards have been changed and updated a lot throughout the years, so it’s important to make sure that you choose a router that works with the same standards as your devices. You can also future-proof your purchase a little by selecting a router that supports the latest Wi-Fi standard even if you don’t currently own any devices that can take advantage of that technology just yet.

The modern Wi-Fi standards that you’ll most often see when shopping for wireless routers all start with the number 802.11 followed by one or more letters. The latest standard that's in widespread use today is 802.11ac, which is essential if you have a lot of cutting edge equipment, like laptops, phones, and streaming devices that can really benefit from the higher speeds and frequencies that it offers. If you really want to make sure that you stay on the leading edge of technology, however, look for a router that supports the newest Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax standard, which offers better performance for the newest smartphones and other devices while remaining fully compatible with 802.11ac devices (also now known as Wi-Fi 5).

Netgear Orbi
Lifewire / Jordan Provost

If you really don’t have any devices that support 802.11ac, or your internet connection is slow, then choosing an 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) router might save you some money, but we don't really recommend that these days unless you're reasonably certain you'll never need the better performance, or you're willing to purchase another router down the road if you ever do.

There are a number of older standards, like 802.11a, 802.11b, and 802.11g, but you won’t find routers that focus specifically on those standards. If you have older devices that use those standards, however, there's no need to worry as almost all modern routers are backwards compatible with older devices.

Frequencies and Channels: Should You Save Money With Single-Band?

A wireless router is essentially a device that allows wireless connectivity between your modem and various other devices over radio frequencies. Every wireless router supports at least one frequency band, but these days dual- and tri-band routers are much more common, and you'll almost never find a Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac router that doesn't at least offer dual-band support.

Single-band routers typically use the 2.4GHz band, which is significantly slower than the newer 5GHz band. Dual-band routers support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and are actually capable of creating two simultaneous Wi-Fi networks, while tri-band routers add an additional 5GHz signal to support more devices at full capacity.

Most people need both 2.4GHz and 5GHz, because older devices only work with 2.4GHz, while newer devices can really benefit from the additional speed you get with a 5GHz signal. It's also important to keep in mind that 5GHz signals don't travel as far, so good 2.4GHz coverage is still important.

Dual-band routers are available in a wide variety of configurations, from budget models to higher priced units that offer blazing fast speeds, so you can probably find a dual-band option to fit both your budget and your connectivity requirements whatever they may be.

If you have a slow internet connection that can’t benefit from a 5GHz router, none of your devices support 5GHz, or you just value saving money over getting the best performance, you can save a lot of money by going with a single band 2.4GHz router.

Tri-band routers tend to be the most expensive of the bunch. If you have a lot of wireless devices, and a lot of people in your home who use those devices simultaneously, then this type of router can be well worth the investment. You can even dedicate one of the 5GHz bands to a single purpose, like your work computer or a gaming console, to avoid congestion issues.

Keep in mind, however, that since each device can only connect to a single band at a time, a tri-band router won't offer any faster performance unless you have a lot of 5GHz devices—its purpose is to reduce congestion by spreading your 5GHz devices across both bands. This also means it won't do anything at all to help your older 2.4GHz devices, which will remain cluttered up together on the lone 2.4GHz band.

Range: Antennas, Extenders, and Mesh Systems

The range of a wireless router simply refers to the physical space covered by its Wi-Fi network. Range is typically reported with the assumption of a clear line of sight, meaning there are no obstructions between the router and the wireless device. Any obstructions, including furniture, walls, ceilings, and even people, reduce the actual range of a router. Also remember that 2.4GHz signals travel farther, and better through solid objects, than the higher-frequency 5GHz signals.

There are a few things that can increase the range of a router, eliminate dead spots in a Wi-Fi network, and improve connectivity. The first is the number of antennas that a router has and the orientation of those antennas. As a general rule of thumb, a router that has multiple antennas that can be rotated manually will have a greater range, and provide better coverage, than a router with just a single antenna. 

Asus AC3100 RT-AC88U
 Lifewire/ Jordan Provost

If you have a small home with an uncomplicated layout, then you may do fine with an inexpensive single antenna router. Larger homes, multi-floor homes, and any situation that places a lot of obstructions between the router and your devices will benefit from a multi-antenna router. The construction of your home matters here as well, as concrete and metal will block signals more than wood and drywall will.

For large homes, you will have a better experience if you use one or more range extenders or choose a mesh router instead of a traditional wireless router. Range extenders connect to your existing network and project it further, while mesh systems use a number of interlocking nodes to cover a large area without slowing down your connection or introducing lag. These systems are more expensive than traditional wireless routers.

Speed: Don’t Pay For More Speed Than You Can Use

If you like to stream movies in 4K, play video games, or just download large files, then the speed of your router is key. When you look at most modern routers, you’ll typically see a label like AC1700, AC3000, or AX6000. In some cases, the number will come before the AC or AX designation, which simply indicates whether it's using 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) or 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6).

In either case, these numbers refer to the theoretical maximum throughput that the router can offer for all of the devices that are connected to it simultaneously. For example, a dual-band AC1700 router has a theoretical maximum speed of 1,700Mbps, but that's split across both its 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

While the numbers are theoretical, and you typically won’t see actual speeds that match the listed numbers, you can use them to compare one router to another. For example, two AC1700 routers from different manufacturers are in the same general speed class (although they may offer different speeds on each individual band), while an AC3000 router is going to be a lot faster.

In general, you should look for a router that’s fast enough to match the speed of your own internet connection. That is to say you should absolutely invest in a dual- or tri-band gigabit router if your internet connection supports it, but buying a fast router like that is a waste of money if your internet connection speed itself is slow, unless of course you run your own media servers or often transfer files between your home computers.

If you aren’t sure how fast your internet is, you can contact your ISP or just connect your computer directly to your modem and run a speed test. Once you know the top speed of your internet connection, look for a router that can match it, and don’t waste money on an expensive router that’s significantly faster than your connection.

Linksys Max-Stream AC1900
Lifewire/Jordan Provost

Ports and Connectivity: Is Ethernet Enough?

While the Wi-Fi network is the most important thing about any wireless router, you shouldn’t overlook other ports and connectivity. At a bare minimum, your router should have at least one Gigabit Ethernet port. This is a wired connection that provides the fastest possible connection speed, and you can always add a network switch later if you want physical connections for other devices.

A good standard to look for on a router is four Gigabit Ethernet ports, although some higher end devices include eight or more. Some even allow you to achieve a 2Gbps connection by connecting to two Gigabit Ethernet ports at once, and a few leading-edge gaming routers now offer individual 2.5Gbps or even 10Gbps ports.

When selecting the best wireless router, it’s important to think about the devices you own that could benefit from a wired connection. If you have a desktop computer, gaming console, and a network printer that don't support Wi-Fi, then a router with four Ethernet ports would be a good fit. If you don’t really need or want to connect anything via Ethernet, then a router with just a single Ethernet port would be fine.

Some routers include additional ports, like USB ports and memory card slots. These ports are typically for connecting a hard drive to provide network storage. If you have a lot of digital media that you’d like to stream to various devices on your network, then make sure your router includes at least one USB port, but also look closely at what you plan to use it for. Most routers offer simple file sharing, but if you want to stream media you'll probably be better off with a router that includes a built-in DLNA server or Plex Media Server that's specifically designed to handle streaming videos to your smart TVs and other devices.

Security: Protect All of Your Devices at Once

Basic routers don’t include any built-in security measures, so you have to meticulously secure each of your devices individually. If you’re looking for a central approach, then look for a router that has built-in security features. Some routers include a built-in firewall, virus scanner, and even the ability to protect all of your devices from malware and ransomware.

Pay close attention to whether these features are free or part of a subscription. Some routers will come with a complimentary subscription to a security service, and then you have to pay if you want to keep the security features. Others include basic functionality, like a built-in firewall, that you don’t have to pay any ongoing fees to use. In some cases, a monthly subscription may be worth the expense if it offers sufficiently advanced protection features, but you can usually find routers that include basic firewall and content filtering features for free.

Eero Pro Mesh Wi-Fi System
Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen 

Accessories: Most Routers Work Right Out of the Box

When you buy a router, you usually don’t need to worry about any accessories. Most routers include everything you need to get started right there in the box. One notable exception is the Ethernet cable used to connect the router to your modem, as the included cables are almost universally very short.

If you need to place your router more than a few feet from your modem, consider purchasing a high-quality Ethernet cable. Use the shortest Ethernet cable that will work in your application, and stick with CAT 6 or CAT 7.

If you plan on hanging your router on a wall, and your router supports that, check to see if mounting hardware is included. If you can mount directly to studs, then you may need to pick up some wall anchors.

Brands/Manufacturers: All The Big Names

The networking space is extremely crowded with time-tested giants and intriguing newcomers alike. Here are a few that are worth looking at as you search for your ideal wireless router.
Asus
You might think of laptops and computers when you think of Asus, but they actually make some of the best wireless routers on the market. From budget routers to their high performance, and high priced, Republic of Gamers (ROG) line, Asus has a wireless router to fit just about any situation.

Netgear

With more than two decades of experience in the networking hardware space, it’s no surprise that Netgear is one of the most well known wireless router manufacturers. They’ve ridden the cutting edge of router technology over the years, including MU-MIMO, beamforming, and even a mesh offering in their Orbi system, and were one of the first companies to offer Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax routers.

Linksys
This company has a bit of an interesting past. While it was one of the original giants in networking equipment, it was eventually folded into Cisco and then sold to Belkin. Despite changing hands a few times, Linksys still has a reputation for rock solid hardware that doesn’t break the bank, and they make some of the best open source routers available.
Synology
This is a company that’s been around for a long time, but they only recently broke into the wireless router market. Their offerings so far have been universally impressive, with specifications, performance, and pricing that meet or beat more established brands.
Google
Google has its fingers in everything these days, and wireless networking is no exception. With their Nest brand, Google provides an intriguing mesh option where the nodes are also smart speakers and the whole thing integrates especially well with Google Home.
Eero
This is another relative newcomer that has put out high-quality equipment on a regular basis since they showed up on the scene. Like Google’s Nest, Eero is focused on mesh routers, and they do it quite well.

Netgear Orbi
Lifewire/Jordan Provost

Conclusion: How to Pick the Best Wireless Router

Compatibility with your wireless devices is key, because there’s no point in owning a wireless router if your devices can’t connect. In that same vein, speed is important, but only if your internet connection can handle it. Range is also important, but the degree of its importance is directly related to the size and configuration of your home. In the end, the key to finding the best wireless router is to consider all of the factors outlined above, and then select the device that best meets your own personal needs.